Doug TenNapel is my favorite comic book storyteller. I was introduced to his work a few years ago with "Earthboy Jacobus" and immediately became a fan. In my opinion, Earthboy is the best graphic novel of the last decade. This is evidenced by the fact that I have owned two copies and currently possess none. Friends don't give Earthboy back!The God Bomb by Doug TenNapel
Doug TenNapel interweaves robots, giant praying mantises, space eels, dinosaurs, down-and-out mobsters, and video games with an underlying desire by his characters to restore parts of their broken humanity. That is where his storytelling shines, in stories of the lost being found, the prodigal returning, and dealing with death and the after life. He tells Christmas stories, God is with us stories. And he tells Easter stories, death has lost it's sting stories. His stories point to thee tory. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay him is when reading his stories, I am reminded that, "God is the world’s best story-teller."
originally posted at TenNapel's Weblog
God is a radical story teller. He’s odd, and he should be. Given we float down a culture of poo it only makes sense that something not-of-this-culture would come off as alien, unbelievable… weird.
Christmas is the event that changed everything. God provides this great gift that is so unbelievable that it even shakes the foundations of the faithful. I think of it as The God Bomb. It’s where supernature touches a starving mankind, dead in our skepticism, demanding a gift that we want but being denied that want to be given what we need. It hit the earth like a bomb, and cannot be reversed once set in motion.
The anti-Christmas crowd, the non believer and the pagan join in the celebration by acknowledging the threat of this gift. When people degrade the gift of Jesus my faith is only strengthened because it inadvertently testifies that something profound has happened. Kwanza is stupid, and you’ll never hear me tell someone they shouldn’t celebrate it. I say, “Kwanza all day and night! Do the Kwanza like there’s no tomorrow!” For God is the God of the pagans too.
You may love Christmas trees, or as they’re called among the Politically Correct “holiday trees”. God is a great octopus who reaches his tentacles out and steals the holiday of the pagans, then makes it holy with the One True Holiday. The gift is so great that everyone puts lights on their houses. Everyone is a little happier when I shop at Ralphs. There are more people saying “good morning”, more people buying gifts for people they don’t care for and receiving cards from long alienated family members.
The story of The One coming to the fallen people is everywhere in modern film making, classic lit and pagan societies that even predated The God Bomb. But a God who is above our physical-based time tells His story throughout mankind. It is entirely possible that God came up with the idea of babies because he knew that he would send his son in the form of a baby some day. On another note, I think he also could have invented sex and marriage because he knew that one day Christ would take the church as his bride.
Oh these skeptical times. When a man talks about the simple, ancient Gospel it is considered taboo. If you think I’m unaware of how I sound, I’m not. I am, after all, a member of our culture of poo also. I could say the F word and be championed as a hero of free speech. If I announced that I was homosexual, scores of people would line up to defend my true, good position of honesty. But say the J-word and you might as well take a dump on the dinner table.
None of us have a completely orthodox response to God dropping the Christmas bomb on mankind. It’s tough stuff to chew. Man cannot save himself, so God wraps himself in the skin and culture of a man and does not come as a statesman, celebrity or academic. He comes as a baby. The ultimate being for all time showing up as the ultimate symbol of lowness born in a cave among filthy farm animals. His mother was likely mocked as a whore because, come on, you’re pregnant and didn’t have sex? That’s a good one. The people God called to testify were wise men from the east (aka: a bunch of pagan astrologers) and homeless shepherds whose testimony didn’t even hold up in a court of law. This strange God loves low things. At the very least, it makes for a better story, and God is the world’s best story-teller.
Structurally, we might be tempted to see Adam as the first act, the birth of Christ as Act two and the crucifixion as Act three. But I think of the birth of Christ as the end. The triumph was locked in place at birth. God wins, but so does man. Like any gift, we can’t earn it. It’s a freebie. It calls for shouting in the streets.
Every year at the San Diego Comic Convention, there is a black man with a bull horn preaching the gospel. Given the crowds, there are thousands of people in the streets, and they stand around the preacher to mock him. They come up with the most offensive things they can say about Jesus. These are my fellow comic creators. My sympathies aren’t with the mockers, because I don’t get my values from a culture of poo. My sympathies are with the bull-horn man, George Bailey and Scrooge.
Merry Christmas! (And a Happy New Year to you, too! ...In jail!)